Jeff and Stephanie Trip to Wisconsin - Revival Church

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Jeff and Stephanie Trip to Wisconsin - Revival Church

First Trip to Sending Church

The last week has been a “whirl-wind” for Jeff and Stephanie. This was their first trip to their sending church, Revival Church, in Fall Creek, Wisconsin. Not only was this their first trip to Revival Church, but their first trip to Wisconsin as well. If you have never been to Wisconsin, some pictures of the colors are below.

The week was filled with getting to know the individuals of Revival Church. Fellowship, stories and “what-ifs” were shared, but most importantly the Lord Jesus was the center of it all, in discussion, study, prayer and thought. The Lord has been most gracious to us all to create a unity, love and bond with each other.

A lot of COFFEE was made through this little machine.

A lot of COFFEE was made through this little machine.


First Sunday

Last Sunday, October 6th, Jeff preached at Revival. He shared and preached through a few of his key verses, shared some of the work happening in Bungoma, Kenya and told us about their family. Pastor (and Physician) James Kinsella opened the meeting giving a brief overview of how they met Jeff, Steph and AFM and then invited Jeff to come and speak. Prior to the Sunday meeting, a few men met together to discuss the book we have been studying, “Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life”, by Sinclair B. Ferguson. The subject for the day was, “The Problem of Sin”.


Meetings and Downtime

Besides all of the scheduled meetings with church members, there were some downtime. A trip to Wisconsin would not be complete without some time for apples, board games and ice cream. Getting to know people is more than mere talk, but time to simply be together under the grace and providence of God. The Kinsella’s youngest kids thought it was fun to look like someone we know.


Meetings

As I have already mentioned, many meetings with individuals and couples was happening all the time. However, there were times we had more specific meetings.

On Wednesday nights many from the church meet at James and Elissa’s home for worship, Bible study, encouraging one another onward and fellowship. With little notice, just prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Jeff, James and Dana (Elder) was able to speak live on the local radio station in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Unfortunately we are unable to get that interview, but it sounded great and went well.

On early Thursday AM Jeff and I were able to catch up at the local Caribou Coffee shop in Eau Claire. On Friday morning Jeff, Steph, James and myself made the hour and a half trip over to St. Paul, Minnesota to visit with Bill Walsh, the International Director of Outreach for the TGC. This was a good meeting and hopefully one that will be a bond for the future in taking the truth of God’s Word and a true Gospel throughout Kenya, Africa and beyond.

(As a side note: I was privileged to go and speak, sharing my testimony prior to conversion and the truth, hope and life in Christ, to two groups of men at the Eau Claire jail on Thursday - tremendous privilege.)


Last Sunday

Sunday, October 13th (Pastor’s Day) was Jeff and Steph’s last day with Revival Church. We sang songs together unto our Great God and James started preaching on the book of Mark, most likely a study that will take them several months to get through. At the end of the meeting, the church came together to pray for Jeff, Steph, their family, ministry and future. Jesus was truly sweet to us. Just before Sunday’s meeting started, Jeff and Steph got experience a light bit of some large snowflakes, something this native Texas, now gone Kenya, missionary couple has not experienced. Earlier that morning the men met again to discuss Ferguson’s Maturity book, this week discussing the subject of “Overcoming Temptation”.


This is NOT the End - Only the Beginning

We are all excited to see how the Lord calls us to working for His glory, the edification of the church and the reaching of those far from God’s grace.

If you wish to learn more, and/or how you can be a simply help on Facebook, check out our links below.

Sincerely,

Jeremy B. Strang, AFM Ministry

Download our Booklet | Listen to Revival Church Messages | Visit us on Facebook

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Mercy Christian academy sponsorships

We've been so blessed to have an admin team (all volunteers) that works hard for Mercy Ministries. They've been putting in extra hours and pulling late nights to help make our dreams come true. We now have another way you can support the work being done here in Kenya.

Mercy Christian Academy sponsorships are now open. For $25 a month you can provide a Christian education for 1 child which includes the following things:

2 meals per day

All school and teaching supplies

Curriculum

Teachers

Uniform upkeep

Facility maintenance/improvements

Having the school fully supported would be a huge blessing. In Kenya we buy new curriculum yearly as the curriculum books are workbooks. As you know our school is very new and still has MANY needs. Before January we need to build at least 3 more classrooms, complete the flooring in the last 2 classes we built and we need desks and chairs for every student. We are also hoping we will be able to add students to each class by taking in 50+ more children from our village. The need is definitely there, but we have to have the proper funding to make that happen.

If you are able to help in this way please go to the link below for more details and to choose the child/children you would like to sponsor. As always feel free to ask any questions and thank you so much for your support!

https://afm.ngo/mca-sponsorship

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Current ways to help

If you are looking for ways to help we have several right now, I know Facebook moves quickly so I thought I would make a post including all the ways to help out right now.

1. Our trip to the states isn't fully funded yet. We are currently sitting at 71% which means we still need $1162.00 to be fully funded. Brendan got a bit excited thinking this would mean a shorter trip until he realized it could mean we just wouldn't make it back. 😂 I didn't correct him because I'm a good Mom like that.

https://aboutface.atlas.thrinacia.com/campaign/27/coming-to-america-jeff-stephanie

2. I went ahead and created an Amazon wish list specifically for things we are hoping to bring back home. I posted a list the other day, but again Facebook moves fast and now that post is several down on my page. There are things on there for the home, school, church and a few personal things. If you are able to get any of these things for us it would be a blessing. Used is always fine and we aren't picky on brands and such.

https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3H4X4RQ97OZIL/ref=nav_wishlist_lists_2?_encoding=UTF8&type=wishlist

3. If you would like to purchase a handmade nativity please do so soon. Each nativity is $25 and we can ship or you may pick up in the DFW area or in Eau Claire, WI area. We will stop taking orders for these on September 17th so that we can get enough to cover the orders we have. All proceeds go to Mercy Home.

https://www.cognitoforms.com/AFMMinistryInc/KenyanHandmadeNativity

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4. We still have some candy "needs"...WANTS for Christmas. Clearly these aren't needs but I think the kids would enjoy trying new candy. We are still wanting to get the following for at least 100 people Nerd Ropes, Reese's Pieces and caramel apple suckers (these are usually out for fall, sticky caramel with hard green apple sucker).

5. Since Jeff and I are leaving before October 1st we need to get salaries paid early. Sometimes this can be a struggle because of the way money comes in at different times throughout the month. If you are able to give towards this you can go to the link below.

afm.ngo/mercy

6. Come and see us if you can! We will be in TX-WI-TX-Cali. we would love to see you! You can private message Jeff or I and see what dates we have left open.

Sorry if this list is overwhelming! Thank you so much for your prayers, shares and love. This ministry could work the way it does without the tremendous amount of support from y'all. We are so blessed to get to live here, travel back to the states and serve God in this way.

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A Glimpse into 3rd World Poverty

Poverty in a 3rd world country sometimes looks like this; today it did for someone we know.

Your child is sick, seriously sick, he needs a blood transfusion, but has to be transferred to another hospital because not all hospitals are created equal here. Luckily you are able to transport him 30 minutes by motorbike, because an "ambulance" costs much more than you can afford. However, before your child can get the help he needs, you have to go home and find someone to buy some of your maize (dried corn) so you have some money to get proper care started. Selling this maize also means you will have less to feed your family. There is no government agency that can help you cover the cost, there is no guarantee you can sell your maize, there is no starting medical care without payment first, there is no (usually) payment for the days you can't work and there is no GoFundMe. It is up to you to get the money you need so your child can get the help he needs.

This is a regular occurrence in our area of Kenya...this is a level of poverty that I can't wrap my head around. I grew up where we got medical help first and paid later. I grew up where if your family was facing a hard time, government assistance was available. I grew up and parented with a "freedom" that if I or my child needed medical care we could get it immediately and I could figure out how to pay later. The poverty our area lives in is one of the reasons I always say that after prayer, money is our biggest need. We have needs, our village has needs, our staff has needs and that never stops. Everyone around us is facing challenges that we can't even fully understand.

Thankfully today we were able to step in and allow things to go down a smoother and faster road. I was notified that we had an employee with an emergency that needed to leave. Through being the "question queen" I was able to get the full picture I shared with y'all above. Jeff had some cash so we just handed some over and sent our employee straight to the hospital because his child needed help right then. We were only able to do this due to the burden God has placed on the hearts of donors and the obedience that y'all have followed through with. You can't fully know what it means to us to be trusted with this kind of responsibility and you can't know what it means to those being helped. While you will likely not ever meet this family they have been blessed by your generosity.

We just got an update that the child has high malaria and is being treated via IV for that currently. The hospital has ordered blood from a nearby town and it should be at the hospital tomorrow, he will be transfused then. After the transfusion they will keep him for at least 24 more hours.

Please keep us in prayer (us and the ones we work with and around)...the needs are huge here. The needs are often overwhelming here. The needs can and will weigh you down quickly here, because the reality is that we can't fix them all. The reality is that situations like I first described make me mad and sad and drive me to do more and more, to draw nearer and nearer to Jesus and to follow Him more and more closely.

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Mercy Ministries - AFM Africa NEW Booklet

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Mercy Ministries - AFM Africa NEW Booklet

You can now download our all NEW AFM Ministry booklet. Learn more about the work the Lord is doing in and through Jeff Bys and Stephanie Bys AFM Missionaries to Kenya. Not only is the Lord using them, but He has been using you ALL - and to this we thank you!

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Clay or Stretch armstrong?

Am I like clay or more like Stretch Armstrong? Such a weird question, but something I've been thinking about a lot. I'm going to try and explain where I am and where I want to be without being all over the place.

First let me start with I never had a Stretch Armstrong, nor have I ever seen one in real life. I'm much too young for that. I'm quite sure Jeff had one, or at least played with one being that he is much older than myself. But, I think we all know that the point of this toy was that you could stretch him and then he would return to his normal shape. So lately I've found myself being stretched by God, but am I staying stretched, so to speak? Am I fully growing or just growing for the moment? Am I truly being clay in His hands or once the streching subsides do I go back to what is comfortable?

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While I think I am being both clay in His hands and also Stretch Armstronging it, I want to be only clay. My marriage deserves more clay, this mission deserves more clay, my children deserve more clay and my Creator definitely deserves more clay. For me personally it isn't good enough to be clay sometimes and Stretch Armstrong others. A 50-50 split isn't good enough nor is 75-25. I want to conform more and more to His ways. I want to less and less be Stretch Armstronging it in the flesh. But I have to be honest with you and say "old habits die hard" and I mostly believe that is because these bad habits are comfortable in the moment even if we know they have lasting consequences.

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Missions is full of stretching, basically you can't do missions without stretching, not successfully anyways. Often times I find myself being streched and streched and streched by the same thing. Why don't I get it the first time? The answer to that question is that sometimes I lean on MY own understanding more than His. I want to remain in or go back to my comfort zone. I didn't like the way the stretching felt so I quickly withdrew back into my "normal", please read that as sinful, self.

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But God, He requires so much more of me. He wants what's truly best for me, not what I, the one seeing the small picture, thinks I want. So in this season of stretching, which will just continue on and on, I'm trying to be more aware, more like clay in the Potter's hands and less like Stretch Armstrong. Call me crazy or weak, but this requires me to be so aware in my daily actions and in conversation with God so frequently because comfort feels better than being stretched. Please pray for me in this area if you think of it.

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*Just so you know, Jeff edits all of my blog posts before they get posted because I am a typo queen! He has informed me that he isn't *much* older than me and he never had a Stretch Armstrong.*

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Our visit to America

Jeff and I need to return to the States and we need help funding it. If you don't know, Jeff and I do not take a salary of any kind so it isn't possible for us to pay for this trip ourselves. We feel like it is important for us to return sooner (end of this month) rather than later for a few reasons actually.

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1. Kyle, our son, is going into the the Navy at the end of this year and we would love to get to see him and his family before he goes into the service. I was blessed to see him last September, but Jeff hasn't seen him since we left at the end of 2016.

2. We need and want to spend some time with our sending church. Most of them we've not met face to face yet, but they are very much a part of the work being done here.

3. I actually need some time to catch my breath. Since Wayne passed away life got busier and I've not really had time to stop making decisions. I'm ready to jump on a plane and for someone to set some food down in front of me without me having to make a decision.

4. Of course Jeff and I have many friends, family and supporters we would love to see and spend some time with. It will be a huge blessing to get to hug some necks we haven't seen in a while.

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Jeff and I hit the ground running almost 3 years ago. During that time we've had very little time to spend together without lots of other people around, so this just trip just makes sense for a lot of reasons. The only drawback is the cost involved. If you can help us meet the fundraising goal it would be a huge blessing to us. We did have to raise the goal some because our flights ended up being more costly than we originally thought. Also please keep us and our family in your prayers over the next several weeks. Jeff and I are trying to get everyone prepared for our absence and we've never been away from our kids (the ones in Kenya) this long. While they aren't crazy about us being gone, they have assured us they can and want to handle this.

If you want to, and are able to, financially help us with this trip you can click the link below to give.

https://aboutface.atlas.thrinacia.com/campaign/27/coming-to-america-jeff-stephanie

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Visiting Our Church Plant

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Visiting Our Church Plant

Wearing the tie and pink shirt is Patrick, a visitor to the church. He pastors a church in another village.

Wearing the tie and pink shirt is Patrick, a visitor to the church. He pastors a church in another village.

Yesterday Stephanie and I were blessed to get to visit our Mercy Baptist Church plant in the village of Tulumba. It was such a sweet time of fellowship. The church has been practicing some of the old hymns, so we sang “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus” together. I preached from Acts 8:26-39, instructing the church on the ordinance of baptism. Then we ate a traditional Bukusu (the local Luyha sub-tribe) meal of boiled chicken in soup, chapati (like an oily flour tortilla), rice, and beans. Only ugali (think dried grits) was missing. After lunch, I taught part of our church membership class. We will return next week so that I can preach about the Lord’s Supper and finish teaching the membership class.

Some of the Mercy Baptist Church congregation, ready to begin service.

Some of the Mercy Baptist Church congregation, ready to begin service.

Me teaching the membership class.

Me teaching the membership class.

Their desire is to learn more about the significance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper and to officially join in covenant community as members of the church. We rejoice in their desire to formalize their commitment to one another and to the leadership of their church, and their desire to obey Christ in Biblical Baptism as well as participating in the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis.

The pastor of Mercy Baptist Church Tulumba is Titus Juma. Titus has shown himself to be a faithful student of the Word and loves the Lord. He has graduated from our Bible school, and is 7 months into the degree program at Kisumu Reformed School of Theology. Titus lives in our village of Kaya, and though he has a crippled foot, he was riding his bicycle to the church (a distance of about 5 miles on bad roads) three times per week. Thankfully, a donor recently started providing for his transport to hire a motorbike taxi. Currently his wife worships at our church in Kaya. Unfortunately, it is very common in our area of Kenya for husbands, wives, and even children to worship at different churches. We are trying to change that in our area of influence, and Titus and his wife would like to worship together at the Tulumba church so we are trying to work out providing the funds for his wife to travel with him. One of the challenges to pastoring a church in a rural village in western Kenya is the extreme poverty. In a congregation the size of Tulumba, the weekly offering might reach $1. They just are not able to support a salary for a pastor. So the pastor struggles daily to feed his family, and it is quite common for the pastor to support the church rather than the church to support him. Currently, Titus receives support from our sending church, Revival Church in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, to cover the cost of seminary and from an individual donor to cover the cost of his transport to the church and back home twice per week. It would be great if a church, or even a couple of individuals, could sign up to contribute monthly to support the remaining transport needed and a modest salary in support of Titus and his family. If that is something you are interested in doing, please email us at mercyhome@afm.ngo for details.

Pastor Titus and his wife at our recent Mercy Ministries Bible School graduation.

Pastor Titus and his wife at our recent Mercy Ministries Bible School graduation.

Mercy Baptist Church Tulumba

Mercy Baptist Church Tulumba

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Doing missions as a family

The exhaustion is real for me right now but I wanted to share a few things while they were fresh on my mind. We often say that our biological children here with us do ministry WITH us, that we do ministry as a family, but y'all don't always get a clear picture of that. Our older kids aren't a fan of the camera so they aren't shown doing ministry that often. The last several days have been complete "disorder", as in not our normal at all.

Immediately upon realizing that I was planning Wayne's funeral I knew I wanted Karson to make Wayne's box that he would be buried in. Almost all of the caskets here are designed in ways I don't like. They are "decked" out with gold colored things (crosses, roses, RIP signs). I hate the way most of them look and I didn't want something like that for Wayne at all. I asked Karson to make a beautifully simple box for Wayne and he agreed. He wasn't a huge fan of the idea, because this kind of stuff is hard, but he did it and it turned out just perfect. Next I went to Caitie and asked her to crochet a blanket and a cover for the thin mat he would lay on. She of course agreed and got started. It was not easy considering the circumstances and the time crunch, but she did a beautiful job and is happy she was able to make those items. Then for the next several days Caitie and Karson held down the home while we ran countless errands, made way too many decisions and ended each day with what felt like a bigger "to do" list than the day before.

Box made by Karson   Blanket and mat cover crocheted by Caitie   Bear was knitted by Benny's Bears.

Box made by Karson

Blanket and mat cover crocheted by Caitie

Bear was knitted by Benny's Bears.

Joy and Violet went to town with us a couple of days and helped me make decisions and pick things out. There are so many details to a funeral and we needed to add some nicer clothes for our kids. Joy and Brendan helped me fold 600 obituaries that we had printed. Aspen and Reed asked many questions and told me often that they love and miss Wayne. The girls (Caitie, Joy, Violet and Aspen) worked together to help make sure everyone had a nice-ish outfit and shoes to wear the funeral. Joy is in the church choir so she sang multiple songs at Wayne's funeral despite crying in-between songs.

Mercy Baptist Church Choir

Mercy Baptist Church Choir

Jeff did an amazing job talking about our love for Wayne. Wayne will always be our sweet, precious baby boy and while his life was short he had an impact on many here in Kenya and in America. I don't know how Jeff does it, but he does an amazing job at tying in, presenting, preaching and/or teaching the Gospel. I'm so thankful for his gift and leadership in this area. Yesterday was no different, he taught from 2 Samuel 12:15-23 and did an amazing job.

Jeff and his translator

Jeff and his translator

Overall, yesterday was beautiful. This whole experience has shown me that even though sometimes I feel like our biological family unit isn't as strong as it was, that we in fact do still have it. Missions is hard, there is a constant pull and struggle of feeling like you're doing too much, yet not doing enough. Feeling like you have to let one group down to meet another group's needs. Wanting to do more in all areas, yet not having enough hours in the day. It is a balance of needs vs wants and time and resources vs reality.

Sweet baby, I will see you again one day.

Sweet baby, I will see you again one day.

Thank you for your prayers during this crazy difficult time. We have a busy rest of the week, with a teacher's meeting Friday, we are hosting a Sharon Bible School graduation on Saturday, church on Sunday and then school starts back on Monday. Maybe next week there will be a small break for me...maybe? Oh, and did I mention that I'm doing the AIP diet and haven't had any chocolate, coffee or sugar (other than what's in fruit) during this whole ordeal? 😂😂😂

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 ESV

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Deep thoughts

The last few days have been a whirlwind. 2 unexpected deaths, 2 funerals to plan and 100 different emotions to deal with. Josephine lived about 45 minutes from us and while the roads aren't the best the drive out there let's me clear my head a bit. Something about the wind in my face and sun beaming down on me or watching the clouds roll in is calming. I can think about nothing or everything, talk to God or go over the 100's of things I need to get done. Even when we get caught in the rain it isn't so bad.

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Before moving to Kenya I had never planned a funeral, but death and funerals are so different here (or they seem to be). It seems like everything starts happening at once and it just snowballs. Everyone wants something from you, yet you don't even want to be making these decisions. Then there is always some sort of family dispute which puts things in limbo. Each day the funeral is delayed means 2 things for sure; more requests and more money.

It is very hard to estimate how many people will come to the funeral because one doesn't have to actually know the family to attend. So while we may be having a funeral for a small baby that most people didn't know, I'm told to prepare for MANY to show up. In Kenya when you have a funeral you feed everyone even if you don't know how many people to feed.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't overwhelmed. I am, I'm completely overwhelmed by all the decisions to make, the drama involved, the love that is being sent to us from all of you and I'm especially overwhelmed that God would pour peace over me like He has. To know me is to know I'm a *bit* high-strung, but for the most part that hasn't been me over the last several days.

Thank you for your prayers, love, encouragement and support. I've not once felt alone in all of this which tends to happen to me. Sounds kind of silly since I live in a home with 100ish other people. I can rest knowing Wayne's heart is whole and he is with Jesus. No more struggling, no more pain. 💜

Sweet, sweet boy, you will forever be in my heart and my baby boy! 💙💔💙

Sweet, sweet boy, you will forever be in my heart and my baby boy! 💙💔💙

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Adjusting to Kenya

Adjusting to Kenya was harder for me than I first expected. The adjustment to everything; the culture, the people, the language, was difficult, but also the seperation from everything familiar. It's not that I didn't want to be here, I did, but it was still hard.

When Dad first told us about his idea to move to Kenya, all of us kids were on board immediately. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting when I said I wanted to go. I guess I was thinking more on the lines of adventure, new places, travelling, and excitement. I wasn't thinking at all about the negative aspects of it. I didn't think at all of the sacrifices that moving to a third world country would entail. About a week before we left though, I began to realize a little more what was going to happen to us. We were leaving our brothers behind. We were leaving our family behind. We were leaving everything familiar behind.

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Reed and I packed and ready to go.

Still, I was caught up in the excitement of it and didn't allow myself to dwell on it too much. We were too busy anyway with packing everything we needed, selling everything we didn't, and getting all of the other stuff ready. Even when we were on the plane I didn't fully comprehend what we had done. When we landed we were busy looking at our new surroundings, getting settled in, and meeting the people.

I didn't realize until maybe two weeks later. Suddenly, I missed my brothers so much, but in different ways. Cory had already moved out, so we didn't see him as often before. I still missed him, but it didn't affect me as much. Quinn had already been gone as well, but we saw him more and we were closer to him, so I felt it more.

Kyle was different. I always felt closer to him than I did the rest so leaving him behind hit me hard. I'm sure the other kids missed him too, but it was different for me. Because of our circumstances, we understood each other better than the rest did. We had gone through the same problems together. I tried to help him all I could, I would defend him whenever I thought it was necessary, and, in a way, I felt responsible for him even though he was nearly two years older than me.

After I cried a few times, I thought I had moved on and accepted the fact that they were in America and we were in Kenya, but I guess I didn't. As time went on, I began to slowly feel angry that we had moved. I was angry that everything had changed. I was angry about the food. I was angry about the people being so different from us. I was angry that our family didn't spend as much time together.

Our family picture from 2015.

Our family picture from 2015.

Soon those feelings turned to guilt. What Christian thought that way? What Christian felt the feelings that I was having? Was I a Christian then? Because I felt so guilty for having these feelings when everyone else seemed to be doing fine, I didn't want to share them with anybody. Because I held it all in, I journaled a lot. Looking back on those entries, I sounded pitiful! They're full of complaints to God asking Him why I felt so alone. Why didn't I feel happy anymore? Why did I feel discontented?

It got so bad that I found it was difficult for me to read the Bible or even pray. I thought I wanted to do those things, but when it came down to it, I couldn't. I couldn't focus on what I was reading. I would start in 1 Corinthians and by the time I came to verse 5 of the first chapter, I was already completely distracted and would just quit. When I tried to pray, I would get to Dear Lord, then wouldn't be able to say anything after that. It felt as though He wasn't listening to me, but I am sure it was all me. I wasn't really trying then. I am not sure why I felt that way. Maybe I was trying to ignore the problem or maybe I was disappointed in God for leaving me. I didn't want to face the fact that if anyone was being disappointing, it was me.

I realized that I was holding onto the past. I kept looking back wishing that I could live in those times again. I kept thinking about how I missed family trips to the zoo, or going to the store with Mom, or going thrift store shopping, or eating at Jason's Deli. I missed family outings together. I missed good food. I missed American convenience. I wasn't thinking about our lives in the here and now and all the new memories to be made. I wasn't allowing change.

I was also still thinking about my brothers. I missed them, I worried about them, and I still wanted to help them, mainly Kyle. I still felt responsible for him and wanted to keep him from making mistakes as I tried to do when we were younger. I didn't want to let go.

One day it hit me. I couldn't help him. (I'm sure you're thinking, duh!) I couldn't help any of them. My worrying and my holding on wasn't doing anyone any good. They weren't being helped at all and it was only hurting me. Another big moment was when I realized: God didn't need me. God didn't need my help to protect and watch over my brothers. God didn't need me to keep them from making mistakes. God can do all of that just fine on His own. He has His own plan and if I'm a part of that, then great, but if not, He knows best. I had to let go.

After I realized this, I got better slowly. I began praying more (I was able to get past Dear Lord then!). I began reading the Bible every day. Of course, I'm still learning. I find myself still worrying. I guess I always will because I love my brothers and I suppose that's just part of it, but I try not to obsess as I did before. But trusting God to care, watch over, and protect them helps a lot. It also helped me to accept our lives here more.

I've come to understand that, no matter how much I miss our old lives in America, I wouldn't change our lives here. I wouldn't give up hearing Robai read for the first time. I wouldn't give up seeing two year old Joy first begin walking. I wouldn't give up seeing Griffin, who had jiggers so bad he could barely walk, run and play football. I wouldn't give up seeing Sylivia, who when she first came was so weak she had to lean on someone to walk, play Chako (similar to jump rope) with the other girls. I wouldn't give up seeing the kids at Mercy Christian Academy walk proudly through the gate in their new uniforms. This life here may be hard, frustrating, and difficult sometimes, but I still love it.

I am still learning and adjusting even after nearly three years of living here. I still miss some of our life back in America. I still miss Kyle, Cory, and Quinn. I still don't understand everything about Kenya. I still don't even know Swahili that well! But I have learned to love a lot about this place and wouldn't change living here.

The whole Mercy Home family during Cory and Rachel's visit in June 2019.

The whole Mercy Home family during Cory and Rachel's visit in June 2019.

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Celebrating Birthdays at Mercy Home - This Week, Rogers

What a great smile!

What a great smile!

Rogers turned 7 years-old this past Tuesday. It is pretty rare to have a birthday week all to yourself at Mercy Home, but Rogers does!

Rogers lives here at Mercy Home with his 5 older siblings. He loves to play banda (marbles) and he also enjoys digging in the dirt and mud. He likes to eat rice and beans, and his favorite Mercy Home brothers to play with are Bravin, Zekieli, Reed, Andrew, and Fadili.

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The hardest parts of Missions

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The hardest parts of Missions

I once thought that when on the ground in Kenya, I thought the hardest part of missions (besides leaving our family) was not having air-conditioning, or maybe the lack of tacos, or even the fact that we didn't have ice, or iced coffee. The first few weeks here I would have said the hardest part of missions were those

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Food That Lasts

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For the last 14 months, I have been preaching through John’s Gospel verse by verse at Mercy Baptist Church in our little village of Kaya. Today’s text was John 6:22-29.

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”


As is usually the case, there is more in the text that could be said than I have time to say. Especially when a sermon is being preached in two languages, it can easily go long. We have a feeding program for the benefit of the kids in our village after service every Sunday, so I try not to run more than 15-20 minutes over.

Today I wished I had more time to expound on a point. In this passage, we are told about a crowd that went looking for Jesus. The day before, he had miraculously multiplied fish and bread and fed 5,000 men along with many women and children who would also have been there. An incredible miracle for sure! And in verses 22-25 we see the crowd suspected something else miraculous had taken place. But as we see in the answer Jesus gives them in verse 26, they missed the point of His miracles. All materialistic notions miss the point. They longed for what Jesus could give them and not Jesus Himself.

Many of the beautiful people of Kenya are faced with extreme poverty. This is a problem we often hear about from afar in the US, but very few see first-hand. In the US there are many government programs to assist those who are poor. I have worked with homeless in Dallas. Poverty in Kenya looks much different. There is very little structure to support the poor here. We know a single mother living near us who is raising four children. She could not send them to school because she couldn’t even manage to pay the $10/year or so for their fees and uniforms. They live in a one-room shack with mud walls and a dirt floor and had no furniture. The mother would leave the children all day and even late into the evenings looking for odd-jobs, mostly digging weeds from farmers’ fields for $1-3 per day. Her 9 year-old daughter had to look after her 3 younger siblings all day every day, including the youngest, a baby not even yet 1 year old. There are no government programs helping her. No safety-net keeping things from getting really bad. We come across stories like hers nearly every day. Kenya is ranked 8th in the world for number of people living in extreme poverty. You would think that such a people would yearn to hear of food that lasts. You would think that Kenya would be a nation burning to know the Bread of Life.

Yet sadly, in Kenya, just like in the US and many other places around the world, the Church is faced with a big problem. There are many who “believe” in Jesus, but only because of the material “blessings” they think he will give them. They are not born again, as Jesus told Nicodemus in an earlier chapter must happen in order to enter the kingdom of God. They are religious, but they are not children of God. Jesus warns us about such in Matthew 7:21-23:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Here Jesus describes, not people who are espousing atheist philosophy and beliefs, or people who are living obvious carnal lives, rather He is describing those who are in our churches and think they are saved from the wrath to come. Yet Jesus warns that He doesn’t know them.

So how can you know? Can anyone have assurance of their salvation? Yes, absolutely! God does not leave His children doubting, for “the one who doubts is like the wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6) For instance, the book of 1 John was written primarily so that Christians might have assurance. Throughout his letter, John contrasts those who walk in darkness with those who walk in light, those who say they have no sin with those who confess their sins, those who do not keep God’s commands with those who do. Later he contrasts those who hate their brother with those who love him, those who love the world with those who do not, those who practice sin with those who practice righteousness, those who love with those who do not. Finally, he contrasts those who believe God and those who do not believe, those who have the Son and those who do not.

Which brings me to my main point. Those who believe God and have the Son long for Him. We all long for something. We long for money, or material things like a nice house or car, or we long for relationships like the perfect husband or wife. When we long for such things, we tend to seek Jesus because we believe he is the way to get what we long for. And when we get a taste of what we long for, we can be like the crowd, seeking Jesus because he filled their carnal bellies with the fish and loaves, not because they saw that His miracles confirmed what the prophets said about Him throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. The Bible is clear, there are false converts in our churches. There are those who think they are born again when in fact Jesus does not know them and will righteously condemn them to hell. If we seek Jesus because we long for material things that he can give us, we may be one of those false converts. If we seek to obey his commands and practice religion because we want to earn His favor so that He gives us material blessings, we may in fact be among those that Jesus warns about in the passage from Matthew 7 above. I think there is an important question we should ask ourselves. Are we seeking Jesus because we long for what He can give us, or because we long for Him? The answer to this question can give us an indication as to whether we have the Son or not.

So what does it look like to long for God? The Bible has a lot to say about this. Ask yourself if these things describe you or not:

My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. (Psalm 119:20)

My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. (Isaiah 26:9)

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25)

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:81)

I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. (Psalm 119:131)

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)

My prayer is that you come to experience that longing for God is satisfied through Jesus Christ:

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13, 14)

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:50-51)

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37)

.And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. (Revelation 21:6)

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)

And that is exactly what He wanted the crowd seeking Him for the wrong reasons to understand:

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. (John 6:27)

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Celebrating Birthdays at Mercy Home - This Week Michelle M., Lucas, and Susan

Michelle in the middle, with Christine (left) and Vennah

Michelle in the middle, with Christine (left) and Vennah

Michelle M is now seven years old. She is a very silly and playful girl. She enjoys playing house and jump rope with the other girls. Michelle attends pre-school at Mercy Christian Academy.

Lucas on the right, along with Zeke (left) and Brian

Lucas on the right, along with Zeke (left) and Brian

Lucas has just turned seven. He is very playful and enjoys playing marbles with the other younger boys. He is funny and very active. He attends kindergarten at Mercy Christian Academy. We thank God for bringing Lucas to us, and his is a story that has affected many. Lucas was living on the streets. Imagine a 6 year-old boy homeless and alone. He became very ill with salmonella from eating food from the trash. Had no one intervened, he likely would have died. Thanks be to God that in His sovereignty, He had other plans for Lucas. Someone found him and was able to get him medical care with the help of a US ministry that knew about us. When Lucas was ready to leave the hospital, he came to Mercy Home to begin a new life. Lucas is now thriving!

Susan with Valentine, ready for school!

Susan with Valentine, ready for school!

Susan on the right, Charity on the left. Photo-bomb courtesy of Moses!

Susan on the right, Charity on the left. Photo-bomb courtesy of Moses!

Susan is now fourteen years old. She is very helpful and almost always has a smile on her face. She enjoys playing with girls of all ages and loves helping with the babies.

Lucas is currently sponsored, but Michelle and Susan are not. If you would like to commit to prayerfully and financially support one of these beautiful girls, please click here for our sponsorship page.

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Mercy Ministries staff

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Mercy Ministries staff

We talk a lot about the kids in our home, the school we opened at the beginning of this year and the children in our village, but we also have 35 adults that we get to work with. 30 of them come from within walking distance of Mercy Ministries. That is 34 families…

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2 boys…

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2 boys…

This picture was taken in March of 2017. Dan and Dan

This picture was taken in March of 2017. Dan and Dan

2 boys...2 lost boys. Both named Dan. Danny Chapia and Dan Kamau. They ran from their home because basic needs were not being met, there wasn't any money for their school fees and there was abuse. Living on the streets sounded better to their young minds than enduring the painful life they lived. They'd seen other boys living on the street and it didn't look so bad compared to what they were living. But they didn't know just how harsh the streets would be to them or how long they would stay there. Being a streetboy seems to be an endless cycle. Often times if the child tries to return home they are rejected or the same old struggles are there so they return to the streets again and again. Most streetboys desire to go to school, yet they are addicted to glue and can't just stop on their own, so school isn't an option without a home to live in. In Kenya streetboys are viewed as trash so not many are willing to open their home or hearts to these boys.

When we met them and I learned some of their story my heart broke. Every child deserves to have a family. I couldn't imagine a child hating their home life so much that they'd rather live on the streets. But, I was new to Kenya and didn't yet realize the harsh side of Kenya. While I'll never fully understand it, I have a better picture of it now. If there is love, food and safety missing from your home you start to question things and see no real reason to stay. Lots of times alcohol abuse is involved and often it is a family issue, so they don't have the option to just go and stay with an aunt or grandma.

This picture was taken in June of 2019 💙💙💙. Danny Chapia and Dan Kamau

This picture was taken in June of 2019 💙💙💙. Danny Chapia and Dan Kamau

2 years has gone by and both of these boys still live at Mercy Home. Many of you will likely say they are blessed to be here, but we are the ones who are blessed. We get to help raise these children in a good way. We get to share the Gospel with them on a regular basis. We get to be the one to meet needs that have previously gone unmet. We get to watch the growth, the emotional and physical growth. We are beyond blessed to get to live life with these boys (and every other child living at Mercy Home). We absolutely have hard days, we have had heartbreaking days, but it is worth it. They are worth every tear that is shed and every pain our hearts feel. They are worth every FB post where I feel like I'm begging for money and they are worth every late night we spend talking and planning for their future.

Please keep these boys in your prayers. They have a lot of potential and can do anything they want to do after high school thanks to a support system like you! Pray that they will lean on Him and live their life for Him because we know that He is where true life is found.

If you'd like to learn more about sponsoring any of our beautiful children here at Mercy Home you can go to the link below. 💜

https://afm.ngo/mercy-home-sponsorship

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Celebrating Birthdays at Mercy Home - This Week: Zeke & Marion

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Celebrating Birthdays at Mercy Home - This Week: Zeke & Marion

As you can imagine with a family the size of our Mercy Home family, rarely a week goes by that we don’t celebrate at least one birthday. Since it is hard for those of you following along from afar to get to know each of the beautiful kiddos of our family the way we do, we thought some of…

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Clubbed feet

Kelly and Ezekiel

Kelly and Ezekiel

Imagine with me for a minute that you are born with 2 clubbed feet. You live in a country where surgery isn't possible or it is unattainable for your family. So you adapt and learn to walk on your clubbed feet and you do pretty well, you can even carry 20 liters of water on your head and you walk most every place you go. As you grow up you are laughed at, unable to play sports and struggle to do normal things. Now imagine being a mom and having a son with the same condition. You've been through this, you know how hard it is emotionally and physically, yet while surgery is possible for your son it is unattainable. Can you imagine the weight you would carry? Please whatever you do don't start with the "I would do whatever it took"...I used to think that too, but this is poverty. This is a poverty that most reading this can't even begin to understand. This isn't a couple of tight months, this isn't needing help to get back on your feet this is consistently living on less than $40 a month and not having anyone to help you. The government isn't swooping in with help, your extended family likely lives on less, there is no help. Poverty didn't even allow this family to ask how much, they were told that surgery "cost a lot of money" so they moved on. 💔 They knew they would never have a lot of money or have access to a lot of money so they just stopped. Now at 3 years old little Kelly hobbles around, but without surgery we all know he'll never run or play football like the other kids.

I'm amazed and heartbroken at the same time. I'm amazed by her resilience, she carries a baby on her back and 20 liters of water on her head like it is no big deal.

I'm amazed and heartbroken at the same time. I'm amazed by her resilience, she carries a baby on her back and 20 liters of water on her head like it is no big deal.

The other little boy (Ezekiel) in the picture has one clubbed foot and while his parents don't also have clubbed feet his situation is very much the same. Lives in poverty and the family never even asked how much surgery was once they were told it was expensive.

But God! God has a different plan for both of these boys. God connected Jeff to another missionary in Kenya awhile back. Ben Gardner works with Dreamland Mission Hospital which is about an hour from us and they preform the surgery these 2 boys need! Today we were able to make arrangements to get them evaluated for surgery and everything went well. We are awaiting on a surgery date, but it should be sometime in September! Dreamland is doing some amazing, life-changing work here in Kenya and it is a blessing to get to work alongside them in what God has called us to do.

As you go throughout your day today praise God for Dreamland, for the way He is connecting people to do His work, that you can't imagine being in this situation and that these 2 boys are getting help. I'm just SO crazy excited for them and for what this means for their life. Oh and praise God for your support because without it we would have never met these 2 precious boys. Kelly (on the left) we met through the jigger treatment clinic y'all sponsored in a nearby village and Ezekiel we met through the feeding program at Mercy Home. 💜💜💜

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Kelly's clubbed feet which his sweet Mama also has.

Kelly's clubbed feet which his sweet Mama also has.

Ezekiel's clubbed foot.

Ezekiel's clubbed foot.

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A perfect storm for this imperfect mama

And today I lost it...mostly in my own head this time, thankfully. I think lots of you have this false idea of me and who I am because Facebook, Instagram posts, and blogs can be deceiving. Sometimes the words "awesome" or "amazing" are used to describe me, but that couldn't be more inaccurate. When walking in the flesh (which I do too often) I tend to deal with anger issues. Maybe that is a learned behavior from my childhood, maybe it is because I don't lean on God enough, maybe that is just part of being human or maybe it is a little of each? I'm not sure, but today I was ready to snap. I could basically feel it from the time I woke up.

If you follow us on FB you are probably aware that we've been sick and by "we" I mean about half of our household which is equal to about 50 people. Headache, body aches, tummy aches, vomiting, chicken pox (yes about 25 of us have chicken pox), malaria, low blood which required hospitalization, dental issues, eye sight issues and a major open heart surgery is still needed. It is kind of A LOT to deal with, process, keep up with, pay for, pray for and, and, and. Today I'm simply overwhelmed and a bit angry.

So today Jeff is sick, who's been sick or feeling unwell for the last week or so and we had an application to return via email for Wayne and the surgery he needs. Easy peasy right? Everyone knows how to email and attach a document or two. Well it wasn't so easy for me. First I couldn't get into Jeff's computer because apparently the password had been changed and I didn't get the memo, so I had to ask one of our children for it. Once I finally I got in the computer and I couldn't figure out how to scan the needed documents. Our printer is a little too simple and so it isn't as easy as it should be. Finally I figured out how to scan the documents but then I couldn't actually see them on the computer because a "language software" was needed even though everything was in English. Downloaded the "language software" and got it installed, but now I can only scan one document at a time and can't combine them into one file, so sorry for the 8 email attachments 🤦🏻‍♀️.

Somewhere in the middle of all that I just snapped! WHY? Why can't this just be easy? I'm not going to lie, sometimes my head goes to a place of "This life is SO hard that (I feel like I deserve) parts of it should just be easy, easy for easy things should be mandated somewhere!" Scanning a few documents and emailing them back should be easy! Finding a place and a Dr to do a very much needed open heart surgery should be easy! Finding medication to ease normal tummy discomfort should be easy, yet I get an antibiotic when I go to the chemist 🤦🏻‍♀️. Chicken noodle soup, which Jeff thinks is a requirement when sick or feeling unwell should be easy, but we don't have canned soup here. Can something's just be easy so it makes the harder things seem easier?

I feel like I deserve...yikes, I hate that! I deserve death because I'm a sinner and fail daily, multiple times a day. I don't deserve for anything to be easy, good, or handed to me. But there I was so frustrated, so angry that I felt like I deserved for parts of my life to be easy because I do hard things daily.

Then later on during the day I'm having to do extra work because I didn't think a form we created all the way through before we put it to work. I'm having to go back and find the dates which certain items were paid, because apparently book keeping is important when you're a missionary. Not hard at all, just time consuming and it could have been avoided so that made it annoying. So I'm writing the date for that receipt 7/27/98...98!? Yeah I'm back in 98...why? Today is Kyle's 21st birthday and holidays and birthdays are hard when you have to leave others behind. It doesn't get any easier, we don't miss family less, we don't long to celebrate birthdays and holidays with them less. Just because I wasn't walking around burdened over missing another birthday didn't mean it wasn't burdening my heart.

Today was a bit of a "perfect storm" for me. I woke up with a heavy heart, but put on a good face while the anger continued to build. I'm missing Kyle, worried about Wayne's heart surgery and how we will pay for that, stressed over 50 (and counting) sick children and a sick husband. While I could totally beat myself up over my anger, I'm a little bit proud that for the most part it all happened inside my head. I didn't fire anyone, I didn't snap at Jeff or the kids. I mainly just threw a mini temper tantrum in my head. I desperately miss the adult children and their lives we left behind.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2‭-‬4 ESV

By the look on her face we are feeling the same, but for very different reasons.

By the look on her face we are feeling the same, but for very different reasons.

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